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The TEARS Sleepathon Autumn 2016 event was held on the nights of 1 and 2 April. Nothing could have prepared staff and participants for the life-changing experience it turned out to be.

Here are the images and stories of two very special nights when more than 150 people spent 12 hours in shelter kennels in solidarity with homeless cats and dogs. The event raised the sort of funds that will help us to reach more animals in desperate need of life-saving intervention, freedom from abuse and suffering, and the chance at new beginnings

Gillian Keelty thanks her sponsors

A great big thank you for supporting me in the TEARS Sleepathon. As you know I signed up to spend a night in the cattery. I’m not quite sure what I expected, probably spending the night in a small enclosed area with one or two cats. Well….

I arrived at TEARS’ Lekkerwater Road premises to be met by lots of friendly and helpful volunteers. I was signed in for the night and given a hearty supper to see me through. Supper was a delicious burger and potato wedges. Yum. Next I was shuttled off to Wenga Farm (TEARS Cattery) to be shown my sleeping quarters.

We (two other crazy cat ladies) were shown into the assessment area and given every assistance to “make ourselves comfortable”.

It was wonderful – the three of us (humans) had been allocated the assessment area for the night. The assessment area is for adult cats awaiting adoption. We settled ourselves down as best we could. Anyone who has a pet, be it cat or dog, knows that as soon as you try to make your bed, it is immediately pounced upon by a willing animal making itself comfy. Instead of my imagined one or two cats, we were surrounded by possibly 20 to 30 felines, all wanting our attention.

After getting to know each other and spoiling the cats, we settled down for the night. Inga, at one stage was covered in four cats, whilst Ronelle had a beautiful calico tucked up by her feet, inside her sleeping bag. I was as happy as could be – Luca, a feisty tabby tom cat at my feet inside the sleeping bag, a rather plump Lydia settled on my stomach and sweet little girl, Maxine, cuddled up next to my head.

We cuddled, played, smoothed, loved and even talked to them, on and off throughout the night. It was an amazing experience and I feel privileged at being able to participate. Both the cats and dogs are rescued or dumped, they need attention, love and affection to help them readjust. I felt on top of the world when I left Wenga Farm on Sunday morning and felt soooo relaxed for the better part of the day. It works both ways!

Whilst having breakfast with those that had spent the night in a kennel with a doggie companion, the overriding comments were; “Can I do it again? When is the next sleepathon? It was fantastic!”

I am definitely signing up for the next sleepathon and hope that I can perhaps persuade one of you lovely people to join me.

Nicola McConnell

Nicola

Nicola and Izzy

The TEARS Sleepathon experience was the most fun, exciting and humbling experience I have ever had. Sleeping in the kennel on a cold Friday night is not ideal for everyone, yet these beautiful animals show no animosity. They all have so much love and trust to give, despite their previous circumstances. Us as humans can all learn a thing or two from these animals!

Thank you TEARS for this experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

So what is it like sleeping in a dog kennel for 12 hours, Mandy Noffke, asks?

The evening of 2 April was pleasant, clear skies, no rain expected – a blessing after the previous night’s vigil. We handed in our forms and met Luke who introduced us to our pad and pals for the evening. Our human group consisted of Andrew, Amber and Mandy – and our canine group of Cheston, Baxter and Cagney. And no 3 canine-alities could be further apart!

We had an early start and went to our pad for the night at 7:30. Mayhem ensued as we met our pals for the night. Mad running around with lots of exuberant playing and licking – a happy meeting. We attempted to clear sufficient space in the kennel to cram all of us and the dogs into. But decided that as the weather was good enough we would hit the dirt. So we set up camp by torch light under the shade roof structure at the front of the enclosure.

sleepIt took quite some time for Mr Cheston to calm sufficiently for peace and quiet to settle around us. Baxter at one point claimed my pillow and sleeping bag as his own and it took some coaxing and bribery to dislodge him. My ever present company for the night was the beautiful and graceful, gentle soul, Cagney. As a parvovirus survivor she has come from a rough background, but is certainly is a survivor. When the boys jumped and ran for the fence when the peace was disturbed by rowdy howling, she kept a watchful eye on proceedings from under the blanket.

The night was long and restless. Competition between festivities in Masi, crazy drive-by hooting at midnight and intermittent canine spats in surrounding kennels only allowed for sleeping in short spurts. The cuddles from our pals made it all worth it.

Dawn brought renewed strength and gaiety as pre-breakfast treats were dished out. Tuggy and ball games got the muscles moving again. All too soon the coffee was calling.

Many tearful goodbyes could be seen that morning as folk said goodbye to their companions.

Would we do it again – absolutely, no doubt. These lovely creatures abandoned by humanity deserve their second chance.